AF’s Weblog

May 27, 2010

ADAM S3X-H Active Monitors Review

First launched in 2009 at Musikmesse, the ADAM S3X-H is the successor of the jewel in the crown of its previous product range. But is it really an innovation or just an upgrade from the German manufacturer? R&D is back…

ADAM AUDIO has enjoyed a great reputation for a decade thanks to its active loudspeaker range making use of ART ribbon tweeters (ART stands for Accelerated Ribbon Technology, a patented technology conceived and developed by the German manufacturer). The inherent advantages this technological choice provides have been widely approved by an ever-growing user community and have also helped reinforce the singularity of the brand as the only one in this particular market to use ribbon transducers. The new X (“eXtended”) series builds on the main features of the previous product line, but brings some real improvements with itself.

ADAM S3X-H

First of all, the new X-ART tweeter is still based on a low-mass, folded ribbon; however, this new system offers an extended frequency and level response in the high end. The new tweeter actually features a higher frequency response (up to 50 kHz at -3 dB) and a higher level (+4 dB / +3 dB SPL) compared with the previous version!

New technology deserves new amplification… ADAM AUDIO developed a new, very low distortion class AB power amp for the X-ART ribbon tweeters that matches their efficiency level and allows them to make the best use of the full frequency range available.

Finally, the HexaCone woofers, based on a rigid honeycomb Nomex structure coated with two Kevlar layers, give the cone more rigidity making it more resistant to deformation. This results in a very high definition of transients and a better low frequency response. Moreover and unlike the previous model — the S3X-H (where H stands for “Horizontal” since the monitor is also available in “Vertical” format) — it features a 4″ HexaCone speaker to reproduce mid frequencies, which in turn ensures a better spectral separation. As a consequence, the manufacturer converted its 2-way flagship into a 3-way loudspeaker — which is quite rare for a “compact” monitor speaker.

With so many improvements over the previous A Series, this new monitor range promises a very interesting sound performance…

Conclusion

Once again, ADAM AUDIO distinguishes itself from other active monitor manufacturers by offering a compact, 3-way loudspeaker with outstanding accuracy and still based on its ribbon tweeter technology. Fans of the previous series — especially the S3A — might be really surprised by this evolution, considering the difference, in every aspect, between both models. The accuracy, spectral definition, stereo imaging, increased output power, and improved overall design of the S3X make it a perfectly reliable active monitor that can certainly find its place in any serious setup.

With a five year warranty and a price tag somewhere around $3,500, ADAM AUDIO has struck a decisive blow once again!

Advantages:

  • Output power!
  • Stereo imaging
  • Accurate low end
  • Overall sound definition
  • Control panel

Drawbacks:

  • Too bright with flat settings
  • Digital input card only optional

To read the full detailed review see:  Adam S3X-H Review

May 21, 2010

Mac vs. PC

How to Choose a Computer for Music Making (Part 2)

More controversial than the Stones vs Beatles, more uncompromising than a Bush vs Obama debate, and hotter than the cold war, the Mac vs PC question ignites passions, endless debates and might even be responsible for violent outbreaks in some circles. But then again, that’s not a reason not to ask, is it? So we’ll try to answer the question as peacefully as possible.

“I am neither Athenian nor Greek, I am a citizen of the world.”
Aristotle
(while starting OS X)

“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.”
Martin Luther King
(while buying his PC)

This question is all the more relevant given that nothing looks more like a Mac than a PC and viceversa. In fact, both are computers using the same components (CPU, RAM, hard drives, etc.) to deal with the same tasks in almost the same exact way: mouse and keyboard allow you to control software tools that offer almost the same functions: can you copy/paste with a PC? Then you can do it also with a Mac…

Anyway, comparing a Mac and a PC isn’t really fair because these words don’t really describe the same thing: a Mac is a computer assembled exclusively by Apple while a PC is a technical standard applying to hundreds of manufacturers (Dell, IBM, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, etc.) and including thousands of computer models.

Why? When computer technology exploded back in the 80′s, rivals IBM and Apple chose different strategies: while Apple decided to stay the only manufacturer of Mac computers, IBM laid the bet to open its technology in order to create a standard, the PC (Personal Computer). Afterwards, hundreds of manufacturers started to buy PC-compatible hardware and this competition greatly increased the PC market to the detriment of the Mac.

While Apple’s market share was around 15% in the 80′s, it fell to less than 3% in the 90′s before increasing again these last couple of years thanks to products like the iMac, iPod or iPhone. Nowadays they have a 10% of the market (according to the newest figures provided by Net Applications). But we have to consider the figures in context: in the small audio world, the picture does look better for Apple considering that, even if no serious study has ever been made regarding this, Audiofanzine’s traffic statistics show that Mac has a 19.6% market share.

Considering this background, you can clearly now understand that it is difficult to compare a computer model with a technical standard: the only point of comparison is the only common component in all PC’s that distinguishes them from a Mac: the operating system.

Windows? Mac OS X?

And Linux?

Like OS X, Linux is a variation on the UNIX system. Linux is an alternative and open source solution which is available in different “distributions.” The advantages? This system is stable, powerful and gives access to numerous free software tools while promoting an enthusiastic sharing philosophy. The disadvantages? Although it is becoming more accessible to the masses every day, Linux is still an environment for computer freaks — even if only because it is supported by very few hardware and software manufacturers. Making music with Linux is possible but not always easy for beginners. And since this system is not very widely used, you’ll have difficulties finding users who can help you out in case you run into problems, despite the few excellent specialized websites available.

You probably know these names very well considering that every time a computer comes out of the factory these two operating systems (Windows on one side, Mac OS on the other side) are mentioned to distinguish both platforms.

OK, so what is an operating system? The operating system is sort of a big program that manages all essential functions of the computer and allows you to install and run dedicated software (for text and photo editing, web browsing, music production, etc.).

The first thing you have to know about operating systems is that they are not compatible with each other: a software conceived for Mac OS X won’t work under Windows, unless it has been ported (which means the software developer made a dedicated version for Windows). However true that there are certain software tools available for both platforms, most of them are only available for one of them: Cubase, Nuendo and Pro Tools are available for both, but Sonar, Acid and Samplitude are PC-only applications, while Logic, Garage Band and Digital Performer work only on a Mac. Thus, if choosing between Mac and PC means choosing an operating system, it also means choosing a software library.

In fact, when it comes to music production, the “Mac vs. PC” question can be answered very easily if you already have an idea of the software you intend to use: Do you want to use Sonar? You need a PC. Are you a Digital Performer fan? You need a Mac.

Now let’s delve in deeper…

Conclusion

Whether you buy a Mac or a PC is up to you, but we hope that the information above will help you make your decision. Should I be more precise? OK, here’s my opinion — which I share knowing that it will receive a lot of talkbacks:

  • If your budget is limited and below $1000, buy a PC and forget the MacMini.
  • If you don’t have enough money to buy software, get a Mac with GarageBand (or a less expensive PC) plus the light version of any sequencer and the freeware available will do the rest.
  • If money is not a problem and you want a computer to make music, for office automation and multimedia, buy a Mac. It’s like a very good PC.
  • If you are a video game freak or you use professional and specific business programs, buy a PC.
  • If you have no computer skills at all and you aren’t sure that it will ever interest you too much, buy a Mac.
  • If you wish to customize your work environment, and say things like “the register has to be compressed” in public, buy a PC.
  • If your best friend agrees to teach you about computers, choose the same as him to make life easier for both of you.
  • If you’ve already made up your mind about the software you want to use because you already know it a bit or any other reason, buy the computer that supports it.
  • If you already have some Mac knowledge, stay on this platform. The same applies to PC.
  • Finally, if you don’t feel sure: don’t forget that it is less critical than taking a road in a Robert Frost poem. Anyways, you’ll probably end up buying a new computer within the next four years because by then yours will be totally obsolete.

Nonetheless, in future articles you’ll be able to read everything you need to know to buy a Mac (quite simple) or a PC (a bit more complex). Used or not? Major brand or not? What’s the budget? Which components? Etc.

OK, I’ll stop here. Now it’s time for you to follow the link below and have some fun commenting.

PS: Mom, I love you.

To read the full detailed article see:  Mac vs. PC

May 18, 2010

7 Things You Should Never Do While Mixing Live Sound

Filed under: Live Sound, Mixing reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 10:40 am

Top 7 tips to learn and live by when you are behind the mixing console at a live show.

7. Just because you’ve been doing something “this way for 20 years” doesn’t make it the right way or even a good way.

True, maybe no one is complaining, and you’re getting hired plenty, so who’s the real expert here?  Hopefully we can all stand to learn new things and do a better job.  It’s my experience that many of us are still a bit shy on some of the fundamentals. Know your signal flow? How about proper gain structure? The theory of formants and how they affect your mix?

Maybe you can answer “yes” to the first two, but how about that last one? Ever wonder how some shows sound terrific, but you can’t put your finger on why that is? There’s always a “why,” and we can all benefit from learning the “what” behind the “why” more often.


6. Maybe your mix does sound good – I’m big enough to admit it. Or at least, at the console it sounds good.

But do you walk around the venue and listen to the system from various seating areas? If not, you might be fooling yourself. It’s true that measurement tools can help us a great deal in setting up, tweaking and tuning these fabulous systems at our disposal today. Yet no matter how great the tool, it still can’t tell the difference between good and bad sound. Only you can do that.

I’m not suggesting leaving the console mid-show to go out to the highest seating area in the arena. However, before the show starts, you should have a good handle on coverage and how it sounds out in the house. Your audience certainly will.

A couple of summers ago, I took my daughter to see Rush at the Journal Pavilion outside of Albuquerque. It really struck me that even from the lawn, the sound was fantastic. Hats off to whomever was mixing that show.


FOH Beck tour

5. Speaking of tools, we have tons of gadgets that have meters, blinking lights, tri-colored LEDs, plasma displays and all kind of ways to measure, indicate and extrapolate the audio information into visual data.

Do you mix with your eyes? Sure it’s great to have a clip light, since most of us have trouble hearing when our system is getting pushed over 5 percent THD.  But it’s a mistake to think that just because the meters tell us everything is O.K. that the mix sounds good.

Want to know how much compression to add to the vocals? Use the meters to get in the ballpark, but then listen to the result and determine if it might need just a skosh more or less.

It starts with reading spec sheets, doesn’t it? How many times have you decided on a piece of gear based on the technical specifications? I’m not saying that’s bad, necessarily. The specs can help us a great deal. But if we haven’t listened to that piece of gear, in context, there’s no way to know how it will really behave when we need it.

To read the rest of the article please visit Live Sound Mixing

May 12, 2010

SolidGoldFX Stompbox Review

If you are interested in guitar stompboxes, you must choose between two different worlds: you’ve got the mass-produced effect pedals that use more or less average-quality components for cost savings reasons, and you have boutique stompboxes produced in small quantities, using selected components, and hand-crafted by guitar FX enthusiasts. SolidGoldFX stompboxes – assembled by a tech guru from Quebec named Greg Djerrahian – fall in the second category.

SolidGoldFX

Before creating his own effect pedals, Greg made a name for himself customizing serial models from other brands to improve their sound quality. For example, he turned the awful Metal Zone into a highly musical high-gain pedal, which certainly cannot be considered a minor achievement.

Being a vintage stompbox collector, he decided to create the SolidGoldFX product range based on his own old-school collection and with the goal of offering modern-vintage sounds. His products have a vintage soul but feature a modern approach regarding dynamic response, sound clarity and respect of the instrument’s personality.

We’ll try to give you a good overview of the SolidGoldFX product range in this review. On today’s agenda, you’ll find two overdrive/distortion pedals (High Octane and Super Drive), two fuzz effects (Formula 69 and Formula 76) and a couple of boosters (Nitro and Rock Machine).

But before plugging in the guitar, let’s take the products out of their golden boxes and compare them.

Finish and Assembly

SolidGoldFXSolidGoldFX stompboxes come in rugged metal housings that recall MXR products in size and look, be it the compact (most of the pedals) or king-size models (Formula 76). Unfortunately, like MXR products, you’ll need a screwdriver to replace the batteries or use them with an external power supply, when this feature is provided, of course.

Each pedal has a silkscreen with a different color on the front panel and the typeface evokes the pedal’s spirit. For example, the Formula 69, which is a typical 60′s fuzz, uses psychedelic letters, while the Formula 76, which is more into the 70′s, recalls the disco years. The silkscreen is very clear, which we really appreciate, considering that most boutique manufacturers hand paint the name of the controls on the housing. In this case, the silkscreen looks professional and it is easily readable, except for the Super Drive whose jam-packed design makes reading the control functions a bit difficult.

Every pedal comes with adhesive plastic pads and it is up to the user to decide if he wants to use them or not. That’s a nice detail if you have a pedalboard and want to fix Velcro strips on the bottom.

Each pedal is provided with a spec sheet that includes an explanation of the concept behind it, a description of all its controls and the pedal’s assembly in detail.

That’s how we discovered that all SolidGoldFX have true bypass and use high-quality components: Neutrik I/O connectors, specially selected potentiometers (you’ll feel it as soon as you turn them) and gold-plated PCBs (does it have anything to do with the brand’s name?). The on/off status is indicated by one or several large, white and very (very) bright LEDs.

Enough chatter, it’s time to see if the stompboxes’ features are on the same level as their look.

Now let’s take a closer look at each stompbox…

Conclusion

All six stompboxes we tested have unquestionable positive features. I strongly recommend you to test them if you are looking for vintage-sounding products with higher versatility than the original models. The icing on the cake is that all stompboxes can be combined together to create more complex sound colors. For example, the Super Drive is transfigured by the Rock Machine, and I even achieved a Kyuss-like sound mixing these two pedals with the Formula 69!

Regardless of whether you are a blues, rock or stoner fan, give these made-in-Montreal stompboxes a chance. Bloody good tone guaranteed!

Advantages:

  • High-class assembly
  • Respect of the guitar’s own sound
  • Superb sound quality
  • Can be combined with each other

Drawbacks:

  • Controls’ layout on the Super Drive and Formula 76
  • Silk-screen on the Super Drive a bit unclear
  • Rock Machine requires special power-on precautions

To read the full detailed review see:  SolidGoldFX Stompbox Review

May 11, 2010

[MUSIKMESSE 2010] CLAVIA NORD PIANO

Filed under: keyboards, Musikmesse 2010 — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 9:43 am

To see more gear video demos see:  Audiofanzine Video Vault

May 5, 2010

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol X1 Review

Native Instruments has been announcing the launch of Traktor Kontrol X1 for several months now and it was even possible to pre-order it on the NI website, if you wanted to be one of the lucky first owners. Was the waiting worth it? Does the Kontrol X1 fulfill our expectations? We’ll see… but let’s unpack it first!

Unpacking

Traktor Kontrol X1The packaging is good quality and all parts are well protected. The box contains a USB cable, a 37-page “Getting Started” document in English, German, French, Spanish, and Chinese, an installation CD including Traktor LE, the drivers, the full user’s manual as well as alternate mappings for the different Traktor versions (Duo, Pro, Scratch, etc.), and the Traktor X1 unit with an overlay to rename the buttons manually if needed. On the CD, you’ll also find the Kore 2 Player software (available for free on Native Instruments’ website) as well as the Controller Editor software that allows you to customize the assignment of each button for MIDI applications.

Traktor LE v1.2.4 was already installed on my computer (the X1 driver is already included in the software ever since version 1.2.3 came out), so I just needed to connect the Kontrol X1 and it was immediately recognized without the need for any further installation (however do notice that if you have an old computer you will not be able to use the controller given that it requires a USB 2.0 port!). The Kontrol X1 is USB powered so you only need to do that one connection! I had already experienced problems with other hardware controllers for Traktor, but this one is really plug ‘n’ play. It’s a joy not to have to spend hours before the controls light up.

How Does it Look?

Traktor Kontrol X1When you switch it on it looks like Knight Rider’s KITT… The dark design is sober but well-achieved, all buttons and knobs feel sturdy, pleasant and they seem to be good quality. The Kontrol X1′s layout is symmetrical and almost all controls are mirrored so that you can control both decks (A and B) independently. The only buttons that aren’t doubled on the X1 are Shift and Hotcue.

The unit is light (1.5 lb.) and slim (4.7″x2″x11.6″). If you play live with a full DJ set, you’ll have to buy the optional Kontrol X1 Bag so you can raise the Kontrol X1 to the same height as a mixer or turntable. The Kontrol X1 includes four anti-slip pads.

All buttons have two different backlit levels: dimmed when inactive and bright when active. This feature is very convenient to find a specific function in dark environments. Both brightness intensities can be adjusted in Traktor. The knobs are not backlit but you can find them pretty easily thanks to the buttons around them.

Each button has different colors to distinguish the different functions:

  • Effects = orange
  • Browsing and loading = orange (it would have been nicer if it was a different color)
  • Loops = blue
  • Transport = blue (a different color would have been nice)
  • MIDI = green
  • Shift and Hotcue = white

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

The Traktor Kontrol X1 is a well-manufactured and excellent-quality product that seduced us. It is extremely easy to install: real plug ‘n’ play. The backlit buttons look great and are very practical in dark environments. So, yes, the Kontrol X1 looks really hot! But it is almost impossible to use it as a mixer with a notebook, which is a pity because it would be a real plus for this slim and light controller which fits my carrying bag perfectly along with my notebook. It only lacks two controls for Native Instruments to be able to target DJs using compact systems.

Advantages:

  • Plug ‘n’ play
  • USB powered
  • Great design and finish
  • Lightweight and compact without compromising operation
  • “On” button in the filter section

Drawbacks:

  • No track volume control! Requires an additional mixer!
  • Price ($199)
  • Additional products required to make full use of the Kontrol X1: Traktor Pro ($199) and Kontrol X1 Bag
  • Unfortunate names on some buttons with Traktor LE

To read the full detailed article please see:      Traktor Kontrol X1 Review

May 4, 2010

Audiofanzine V4.1 Launched

Audiofanzine is now tagged V4.1 following major website updates. New functions include the following…

Classifieds
  • Complete overhaul of the musicians classifieds section
  • Geolocalization and integration of Google Maps
  • New search engine
  • New Rehearsal Studios category in Classifieds
  • Possibility to upload photos with the classifieds
  • Possibility to change the default title

Forums

  • New thread status: unresolved/resolved
  • Online/offline user status

Social networking

  • Twitter and Facebook links for easier content sharing
  • New Facebook “like” button on news and articles

User reviews

  • Complete overhaul
  • Merging of user reviews and user reviews requests icons
  • Possibility to upload photos with a review

To check out these new functions see Audiofanzine

May 3, 2010

Marshall JMD Amplifiers

To see more gear video demos see:  Audiofanzine Video Vault

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